The world of pro wrestling, much like life, is cyclical. Popularity and quality of the product sometimes go from warm to cold, like the changing of the seasons. Over the last few years the WWE seems to have reached a transitional stage for the company. It reminds me a lot of what happened back in the early ’90s. They called it the “New Generation Era,” and it was one of my favorites. The were coming off the hottest period the company had ever seen, and as Hulkamania came to an end, they had to create new stars to keep the company on top. The territory system was all but dead, and as WCW grew from a regional “rasslin'” show to a national TV program, the WWE found themselves not only competing for viewers, but for talent as well.
Just look at where we are when it comes to wrestling. It is a sport that thrives on the internet, and fans all over the world know just as much about any independent wrestler as they do the top superstars in the WWE. Recently a shot was heard round the world, as the “All In” Indy show in Chicago sold out in less than a half an hour. This is indeed a great time to be a fan of all wrestling, but the more I think about it the more I see the WWE in a transitional phase. They have a tremendous amount of in-ring talent, but they lack a larger than life megastar that can carry the company into a war that is just beginning. To prove that what goes around comes back around, let’s take a look at some of today’s stars, and compare them to the “New Generation” alum that they resemble most. Starting with…..
Roman Reigns is Diesel:
I’m sure some of you were expecting the obvious Big Cass/Diesel comparison but when you break it down, outside of size, it doesn’t make much sense. I don’t see Cass as a main event talent just yet, and to be quite honest, he can’t touch Kevin Nash on the mic. Putting Roman Reigns in that spot gets clearer the more you think about it. Diesel debuted as Shawn Michaels bodyguard, Reigns as a the muscle next to Ambrose and Rollins in the SHIELD. When WWE brass saw something they liked, they were fast tracked to top guy status. Sure it took Reigns longer than Nash to win a World Title, but it was chance the WWE took to try and create a new star from nothing. What brings them together is the hate both guys garner. Diesel’s WWF Championship run is regarded as one of the worst in company history. As talented as both men are, neither ever really had the respect of the hardcore fan. Further more, there was a tremendous amount of talent behind them on the card, that many fans felt more deserving of the top spots. Even though Reigns is a better in-ring performer, it still shows that no matter what you try, sometimes the fans just won’t buy in. Reigns can definitely get his career back on track with a character adjustment, much like Nash did when he left WWE for WCW, and was one the founders of the nWo. That run put him in the Hall of Fame, we’ll see if Reigns can carve out a similar path.
Speaking of shields and Kliq’s…..
Seth Rollins is Shawn Michaels:
Comparing these 2 guys as in-ring performers is nothing groundbreaking, but their career paths are more similar than meets the eye. Both broke into the WWE as part of a group, then shockingly turned on said group in order to further their career. Except Rollins shot to top right out of the gates, where Michaels took the longer road to world championship glory. Where they set themselves apart is how they have upheld the tradition of having the Intercontinental Champion be the “wrestlers title.” Much like HBK, Rollins continues to steal the show every night, and his matches have become must-see TV. Rollins may be the next all-time great in the making, and it won’t be long before he finds himself back in the main event picture.
Every great wrestler needs a great rival…..
Finn Balor is Razor Ramon:
Tell me a bad match Balor and Rollins have had this year…I’m still waiting. The same applied to HBK and Razor. What makes the Balor/Razor comparison work in my eyes is their place on the roster. As good and as popular as Razor was, he was always a step behind his contemporaries. Same goes for Balor. He is great but I just don’t see him being at the level of a Rollins, Styles, Owens, Reigns, etc. Only time will tell if Finn can separate himself from the pack, and become what we all hope he can be.
Enough with the little guys, we need a monster…
Braun Strowman is the Undertaker:
Every generation needs the giant scary guy, and that is exactly what Braun Strowman is. The fans are fascinated by him, and want nothing more than to see him dominate the competition. This is where you can draw the parallel between Braun and the Undertaker. They both struck fear in their opponents with nothing more than their aura. Take away Taker’s first world title run that lasted only 6 days, and it took him until 1997 to taste legit championship glory. Braun is destined to climb to the top of that mountain. He has got all the tools, including a catchphrase that makes no sense! That’s all you need!
We also need an underdog:
Sami Zayn is Owen Hart:
Sami Zayn is an Uber talented wrestler, who the fans adore, and he will always be in the shadow of his best friend/greatest rival. Sound familiar? Zayn can have great match after great match, but he will always be connected to Kevin Owens, just like Owen was to Bret. The jury is still out on Zayn. As gifted as he is, like Owen, he has not been able to crack the main event consistently since his impressive run in NXT. He is on a hot streak right now, here’s to hoping he can stay on it.
AJ Styles and Kevin Owens are Bret Hart:
I know this may seem like a cop out, and it is. I couldn’t decide on which one of these guys fit the Hitman’s mold better. But the more I thought about it the more it became clear that they each embody the best of Bret Hart. AJ Styles has had to be the steadfast veteran in a period that desperately needs it. He is a true champion that puts on a great match every time he steps through the ropes. Like Hart, he can those performances out of any wrestler, any size. He is a cornerstone of the WWE in 2018. Kevin Owens shows us what Bret Hart would be if he were active right now. Babyface promos in 1993, are heel promos in 2018. Owens has a bigger personality, but his constant whining about the world being against him echoes the same sentiments Hart spoke of back in the day. Being Canadian helps too. In WWE world void of heels he is the best kind. He’s annoying. He’s whiny. He can wrestle.
All of the guys on this list may not be on the mainstream level of a Hulk Hogan or a Steve Austin, but they are the building blocks to get the WWE into their next phase. I trust these guys will get the company back where it needs to be, the next great generation.
Honorable mentions: John Cena/1993 Hogan, Elias/Jeff Jarrett, Bray Wyatt/Papa Shango,